Monthly Archives: August 2011

Learning on the job

by Bethany M. Dunbar, August 25, 2011

Barton was styling for the first day of the Orleans County Fair on Wednesday, August 17.  It was the day of the Cadillac parade, and it must be said that Lorie Seadale and all the other volunteers should be feeling pretty proud of their accomplishments right now.

Great job.  It was a lovely day and brought lots of people to town who probably never would have found us without this wonderful event to bring them here.  We have already heard from some Cadillac aficionados who are planning to come back next year and bring all their friends.

A new Guinness Book of World Records for the longest Cadillac parade ever was set with 298 cars wending their way through town and into the fairgrounds.  It was something to see.

I made my first video ever.  You can see it at the Chronicle’s web site:  I feel pretty happy about it considering I really didn’t know what I was doing.  So far I have learned absolutely everything I know about journalism on the job.

Oh, not everything.  I already knew how to type.

But when I first started selling stories to the Hardwick Gazette I was in high school.  I must have had some kind of camera because I remember buying some film to take a photo to go with my stories.

I went to college (first the University of Vermont and later Lyndon State College) with the idea firmly in mind that no one actually makes a living by writing, so I’d better have a back-up plan.  That was to teach, and therefore my degree is in education.

After a year of substitute teaching I found myself being drawn back magnetically to journalism.

My first day of work at the Chronicle, the owner and founder of the newspaper, Chris Braithwaite, showed me how to use a single-lens reflex camera and explained in some fairly deep detail the principles of how it works.  I didn’t understand much more than about half of his explanation, but that was enough.  Off I went to my first parade where I was shooting away in my glory, wondering why I wasn’t running out of film.  Turns out I had forgotten to put film in the camera.  Wait!  Parade, come back!


I didn’t get fired.

I tried again, and another time I got some nice photos, then learned how to use the darkroom to develop them.  I learned how to write a decent lead on an article, take notes quickly, listen for the good quotes, ask good questions and put it all into a format that someone might hopefully want to read.

I learned that you should basically never write in the first person.  News is objective.


As I write this I’m still not fired — stay tuned.

The first computers were awful things that constantly erased all your work for no apparent reason.  I learned that, and then along came digital cameras and another thing to learn.  Hey at least you can’t forget the film in these things.

But there is so much more that can go wrong.  The battery can die, you can run out of room on your memory card, start erasing photos and erase a photo by mistake.  I did that last week — you know who you are.  I’m sorry.  Thanks for coming back and doing it over.

Now we have the Internet, web sites, blogs, and video.  It’s fairly mind-boggling when you think about how much has changed in journalism.

Some things are the same, though.  A great parade is a great parade.  I hope you will take a look at my first video and send me a comment to tell me what you think.

At least I didn’t forget the film this time.